Johann Georg Pisendel was one of those artists who undoubtedly marked the European music scene of the first half of the eighteenth century. He was a reference for performers and composers of his time and his legacy continues to surprise us and discover fundamental and unknown aspects of the Baroque musical world. Yet, Pisendel is still a great unknown.
He was a student of Torelli, Montanari, Heinichen or Vivaldi, with whom he also cultivated a deep friendship. Friends of his were also Bach, Telemann, Graupner, Zelenka, Hasse or Graupner. From among this wonderful list of friends we know that Bach wrote especially for him and that Vivaldi, Telemann or Albinoni dedicated sonatas and concerts to him. As teacher, Pisendel had among his students musicians like Quantz, Benda or Agricola. In addition, Pisendel was a talented composer, one of the greatest virtuosos of the eighteenth century and an avid collector and painstaking copyist who managed to gather in his archive for the orchestra of Dresden over two thousand scores, making his collection, known as Schrank II collection, one of the most important musical archives of the first half of the eighteenth century.
Dresden in the days of Pisendel:
Johann Georg Pisendel was in charge, among other duties, of the instrumental music of the court of Dresden (Repertoire der Instrumentalmusik). This position required Pisendel “to get and arrange his own music and that of other composers”. After at least twenty eight years (likely more), arranging “his own music” it is striking, however, the limited number of own compositions that have reached us. Five works for orchestra, eleven concertos for violin and orchestra, one sonata for solo violin and six sonatas for violin and continuo.
All these compositions are found in his personal collection, the Schrank II collection of instrumental music. In this collection we find not only the pieces that were performed in the court of Dresden but also works that belonged to the private collection of Pisendel or even sketches of some of his compositions. This makes it more surprising that we do not find more pieces of Pisendel himself in this archive. The explanation: many of these pieces have not yet been identified.
There are about one hundred ninety manuscripts that contain more than two hundred anonymous pieces in the Schrank II. Thanks to recent research, new and exciting identifications have emerged from this treasure of anonymous pieces.
Some of these identifications are linked to the research that Javier Lupiáñez, Scaramuccia’s violinist and musicologist, currently performs on the Schrank II. These identifications include works by Westhoff, Lonati, Leclair, a new vivaldian cadenza, and the identification of two Vivaldi sonatas, including the earliest known work of Vivaldi.
New sonatas by Pisendel
The three sonatas identified by Javier Lupiáñez and premiered by Scaramuccia present the balance between virtuosity and rhetorical drama typical of the compositional language of Pisendel. As in other of his sonatas we see a perfect assimilation of the Italian and German styles in a way that we only find in Dresden. Passages that remind us of composers who influenced him, such as Vivaldi or Bach, are interspersed with the original and brilliant Pisendel style.
But the Pisendelian paternity proofs go beyond the unquestionable quality of the sonatas and their closeness to the compositional style of Pisendel. We found different types of evidence pointing to a positive identification for each of the sonatas.
THE SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND CONTINUO IN A MINOR
The sonata for violin and continuo in A minor masterfully combines the most virtuoso violinist language with a refined aesthetic sense. The style of this sonata reminds us of the Bachian language, especially the last movement that recalls the last movement of the Bach sonata for violin and continuo in E minor BWV 1023 and the first slow movement that parallels with the sonata in C minor BWV 1024 (the Sonata BVW 1024 could have been written jointly between Pisendel and Bach). Besides concordances with other works by Pisendel, the strongest proof for his paternity can be found in the compositional sketches written by Pisendel in another manuscript. We find evidence of this type of sketches for other Pisendel sonatas (such as the E major Sonata) and are an important proof to determine Pisendel’s hand in this composition.
THE SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND CONTINUO IN G MAJOR
The sonata for violin and continuo in G major is written with the brilliant, sparkling, virtuoso, and tremendously elegant language that we find in other Pisendel sonatas and in their concerts in major key.
There are other Pisendel sonatas where we find manuscripts containing early versions of the sonata and other manuscripts with the same sonata already finished in a clean copy (that is the case of the Pisendel sonata in E minor JunP IV.1). This is also the case in this new sonata. We find an early manuscript by Pisendel featuring an early version of the sonata. This early manuscript presents also a number of sketches and compositional ideas that are crystalized after in other manuscript in a clean version of the sonata:
THE (OTHER) SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND CONTINUO IN G MAJOR
The Sonata for violin and continuo in G major reminds us of Pisendel’s orchestral works, full of light and rhythmic games with daring syncopations. This relationship with the orchestral works of Pisendel is not by chance. The biggest proofs that lead us to its identification are the concordances with passages of the concert for violin and orchestra by Pisendel in D major JunP I.5.
This transfer from sonata to concert has other examples in Pisendel, such as his sonata in D major, whose material we find in the violin concerto JunP I.7.
These three new sonatas are an irrefutable proof of Pisendel’s quality as a composer, one of the great virtuosos of his century that undoubtedly deserves to be rediscovered.
Other Pisendel’s world premieres
THE SONATA IN E MINOR (EARLY VERSION)
The wonderful sonata in E minor by Pisendel has been already recorded and performed. However, there is a manuscript that has gone unnoticed in the eyes of performers and researchers. This manuscript contains an earlier version of the sonata. This is a surprising version, sometimes very different from the later version. Thanks to the recovery of this source we can better understand the compositional and performance process of baroque composers and performers.
PISENDEL AND THE HARPSICHORD
As a finishing touch the program presents the world premiere of an anonymous piece for solo harpsichord. We do not know the author, although it could be Pisendel himself. We only found two works for solo harpsichord in the entire Schrank II collection and this is the only one that was copied by Pisendel himself.
The recordings on this CD were made with a proprietary microphone technique, called ECA, that was developed by our sound engineer in order to achieve maximum sound fidelity, with very good positioning of the instruments in the virtual space that is being created between your speakers. The mixing and mastering process has been performed with an almost fully analog equipment chain in order to maintain the complex tonal character of the sound of gut strings and the harpsichord. This results in a musical vividness and three-dimensional sound that is rarely heard in acoustic music recordings.